COVID-19 infection rates in Herefordshire have started to fall, indicating that an outbreak at a farm in Herefordshire is now under control and transmission slowing.

A statement issued by Herefordshire Council on 6th May said:

Herefordshire Council is working with Public Health England (PHE) Midlands to support S and A Produce at their site in Marden, Hereford, following an outbreak of COVID-19 among their workforce.

Workers employed in the soft fruit packhouse are known to be affected. S&A Produce has enhanced control measures in place to limit transmission, and repeat testing is being carried out to identify cases. Cases and their contacts are isolating, and being supported to do so by S&A Produce.

Herefordshire’s Acting Director of Public Health, Dr Rebecca Howell Jones, said:

“We are working closely with S&A Produce, whose prompt and thorough testing and introduction of enhanced measures is helping to limit transmission in their workforce and the wider community.

“I would like to reassure people that we are continuously working with businesses in Herefordshire to prevent outbreaks and limit transmission when positive COVID-19 cases are identified. 

“Across Herefordshire we have had very good engagement from a range of workplace settings to contain and manage outbreaks, including participation in repeat asymptomatic testing and active case finding.  There are specific measures in place for seasonal workers, including testing and isolation on arrival as well as living and working in small ‘work bubble’ groups.

“When outbreaks are identified, we work closely with organisations to ensure they have appropriate measures in place, such as social distancing, cleaning, work practices and ventilation.  We monitor these measures to ensure they continue to be followed to manage and greatly reduce the risk of transmission.

“Inevitably when the community case rate is low, this will produce a local spike in confirmed cases as has been seen in the past, and test, trace and isolate measures remain core to good outbreak management.”

Dr Naveed Syed, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control with Public Health England (PHE) Midlands, said:

“Despite working extremely hard to provide a Covid-secure environment, it is inevitable that outbreaks will occur in settings where there are large numbers of people working together, increasing risk of infection. S&A Produce has been exemplary in the measures put in place to reduce risk of transmission of COVID-19; with a robust testing regime, and isolating members of its workforce found to be positive – often asymptomatic individuals, as we have seen repeatedly during this pandemic. PHE will continue to support S&A Produce, which are vital to the fresh food supply chain in this country, and an important employer in the West Midlands region.”

Peter Judge, Managing Director, S and A Produce said:

“Our key focus is and always has been the welfare and safety of our people and the broader community in which we operate, and this has been at the heart of our response to this outbreak.

“Throughout this matter we have worked closely with Public Health England and Herefordshire Council, whose support has been exceptional. Following their guidance we have further increased routine testing in order to quickly identify any further cases (the majority of cases have been in individuals without symptoms), and been able to identify all possible contacts and supported them to isolate.”

Since this statement was issued, COVID-19 infection rates in the Lugwardine, Moreton-on-Lugg and Withington area have fallen from over 450 cases per 100,000 population on 30th April, to 247.7 cases per 100,000 population in the seven days ending 7th May.

The overall infection rate in Herefordshire has fallen to 25.9 cases per 100,000 population, from 37.3 cases per 100,000 population a week ago.